Premier League week 9 preview: Reds are off to Wembley

Premier League Preview Liverpool

Both Liverpool and Tottenham go into their Premier League clash on Sunday buoyed by excellent results in the Champions League midweek. Spurs were very good value for a 1-1 draw away to holders Real Madrid – indeed, they might count themselves slightly unlucky not to have won – while the Reds emphatically made up for their recent goal drought by smashing seven past an abject Maribor side. From a Liverpool perspective, Tottenham’s win over Bournemouth last week was inopportune, as it means that Mauricio Pochettino’s men have shaken off their Wembley hoodoo ahead of the Merseysiders’ visit this weekend. Jurgen Klopp’s much-maligned defence succeeded in thwarting Romelu Lukaku last week, but will they look so secure when faced by Harry Kane? At the other end, can Spurs’ widely praised rearguard cope with the formidable attacking threat of Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah and Philippe Coutinho? This is the standout clash of the Premier League weekend and it promises to be one of the games of the season so far.

Merseyside and North London also go head to head at Goodison Park earlier on Sunday as Everton welcome Arsenal to the north-west. Neither team is brimming with confidence at the moment, with the struggling Toffees fortunate to escape from Brighton with a point and the Gunners crashing to defeat at Watford. Both were in Europa League action on Thursday, so neither has had much turnaround time for this pivotal domestic fixture. It’s a game where both teams might be content to draw, but a point would not do either much good overall. If there is a decisive result, the losing manager will almost certainly come in for renewed flak.

Burnley have been exceptional in their away matches so far this season, beating Chelsea and Everton and drawing with Tottenham and Liverpool. They will need to better all those performances, though, if they are to take anything from their visit to freewheeling Manchester City on Saturday. The Clarets will most likely sit in, keep their shape and let the league leaders dominate possession, but City’s attack has been so devastating that even a defence as well organised as Sean Dyche’s could be torn asunder. Sergio Aguero was on the bench last week for the 7-2 romp over Stoke; will he be restored to the starting XI for the first time since the car crash in Amsterdam?

Huddersfield are without a win in six matches as the reality of Premier League football has set in, and it doesn’t get any easier this Saturday as they face Manchester United. The John Smith’s Stadium is bound to be rocking for a first-ever visit from the Red Devils, while Terriers fans may recall how Bournemouth downed United on their own turf in their debut Premier League campaign two years ago. Jose Mourinho’s side were decidedly average in recent games away to Liverpool and Benfica, but didn’t concede in either match and left Portugal with a narrow win. One thing is for certain; United will be a lot more expansive against Huddersfield than they were at Anfield last week.

Almost a quarter of the way through the season, Chelsea are looking up the table at Watford in fourth place. The Blues have been rocking of late, with defeats in their last two Premier League games and the squandering of a two-goal lead against Roma in the Champions League midweek. Antonio Conte has been unusually vocal in his press conferences, so you sense that all is not well for the champions. Watford could be visiting Stamford Bridge at a good time, then, and they certainly won’t have an inferiority complex under Marco Silva. Indeed, should the Hornets consign Chelsea to a third home defeat of the season, they will be third in the Premier League overnight – not bad at all for a team some tipped for relegation in pre-season.

The weekend’s action commences at London Stadium on Friday night as West Ham play host to Brighton. Both teams were on course for impressive victories last week before conceding late goals to leave them settling for a point. The Hammers will be without Andy Carroll following his needless red card at Turf Moor, while Javier Hernandez has seen his recent performances come under scrutiny. Could this be an ideal opportunity for Brighton to record a first Premier League away win? Chris Hughton’s side seem to be getting to grips with life in the top flight and probably should have beaten Everton last weekend. If they can get three points in the capital tonight, they will move into the top half as they cosily watch the others slug it out across Saturday and Sunday.

Leicester parted company with Craig Shakespeare during the week, the second time in eight months that they have sacked a manager. Michael Appleton takes temporary charge for Saturday’s trip to Swansea with the Foxes in the relegation zone and without a league win in two months. Performance levels have also dropped, so it’s evident that Leicester are in trouble as they head for the Liberty Stadium to take on a resurgent Swansea outfit. Tammy Abraham netted twice against Huddersfield last week and he could fancy himself to plunder further goals against a team clearly lacking in confidence.

Having finally scored their first Premier League goals and won their first Premier League game of the season, can Crystal Palace follow it up away to Newcastle on Saturday? The return of Wilfried Zaha has given the Eagles a welcome attacking impetus, especially in the absence of Christian Benteke through injury. The Geordies have drawn their last two against Liverpool and Southampton, although they would have been disappointed not to beat the Saints after leading twice. It’s a meeting of two former Liverpool managers, with Rafael Benitez up against his Anfield successor Roy Hodgson. When this fixture was last played, Newcastle won courtesy of a stunning Andros Townsend free kick. This time, he’ll be hoping to get one over on his former club.

Neither Southampton nor West Brom have set the league alight so far this season prior to their face-off at St Mary’s on Saturday evening. The Saints twice came from behind to claim a draw against Newcastle, when they showed that they are a spirited but vulnerable outfit. The Baggies were close to a second successive win at Leicester before being pegged back late on, although a draw was not a bad result in context. Jay Rodriguez is set to make his first appearance on the south coast since his summer move from Southampton, where hopefully he will be given a warm welcome by his former club’s supporters.

Stoke could do with a win this weekend to shake off the cobwebs of their 7-2 hiding at Manchester City. A home match against second from bottom Bournemouth seems to be the perfect fixture for the Potters to get back on track, although their start to the season hasn’t been much better than that of their opponents. Also, the Cherries will take heart from how hard they pushed Tottenham at Wembley, but Eddie Howe knows that points need to start coming quickly if Bournemouth are not to be playing catch-up in the fight against relegation. He’s not under great pressure as of yet; the same cannot be said for Mark Hughes.

Bournemouth became Spurs’ first Wembley victims in the Premier League and Liverpool will hope not to follow suit on Sunday. The Reds’ last visit to the national stadium was a hugely satisfying one as they thrashed Barcelona in pre-season in August 2016. Also, after six successive defeats away to Tottenham between 2009 and 2012, Liverpool did not lose any of their final four trips to White Hart Lane. Can they keep the sequence going at Wembley?

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